Jane Ira Bloom has one of the most distinctive, appealing soprano saxophone sounds in jazz — clean and clear, with vibrato so minimal you could miss it altogether. Bloom's a lyrical, melodic improviser who sometimes uses electronic enhancements (sparingly) to color but not obscure her limpid sound. You can hear all that on 2008's Mental Weather, one of her very best recordings. Bloom also composes tuneful pieces — “A More Beautiful Question” starts like Gershwin's “I Loves You, Porgy” but quickly goes its own way — abetted by an alert, probing rhythm section. Her partners are Seattle's Dawn Clement, who has her own clean, lean approach to piano, celebrated drummer Matt Wilson and bass wiz Mark Helias. The latter two bring a strong sense of color as well as propulsion to the action; hear for example Wilson's cymbal commentary under Helias's strong bowed-bass solo at the end of “Ready for Anything.” Fine tunes and great blowing: that's the stuff.
Bloom has made the program available in two versions, as separate tracks or a continuous set, re-sequenced and five minutes shorter, with some performances trimmed around the edges to facilitate segues and cross-fades. This listener prefers the longer, track-by-track version, but bargain-download hawks will know a good deal when they see it.